Normally, religious beliefs are the most ancient ones that have been kept up to modern times. They are various but at the same time they have combining elements which are in common in all religions. Such a symbol is the Hamsa amulet. Better known as the Hand of Fatima or the Hand of Miriam (the latter being Moses’ sister), it’s an amulet of a palm shape (symbolizing power and security) which is worn as a jewelry by Jewish, Muslims, Christians and Hindi alike.
The word Hamsa comes from the word hamesh in Hebrew which means “five”. Actually, the digit has a very strong symbolic meaning both for the Jewish and Arabs. The form of the amulet itself represents five fingers, the thumb and pinky being outspread but always symmetrical. Each of them has its own meaning: the thumb is fire, the index – air, the middle finger – the sky element, the ring finger – earth, and the pinky – water. The five elements control the various energies in our bodies. Wearing the Hand of Fatima, they combine in one and cure and protect our bodies from various crashes (both physical and psychological). They are our protectors from evil eyes or as a matter of fact, the only eye displayed on the palm is supposed to be a powerful talisman against ayin hara (or “evil eye”). As a whole, the amulet brings luck and power to its owner.
Which are the early examples of hamsa in use? Principally, the Hand of Fatima was carved on the Gate of Judgment (Puerta Judiciaria) 14th-century Moorish fortress, the Alhambra. The outstretched fingers and the eye on the palm of the hand protect visitors from evil eyes while a carved key welcomes them and symbolizes authority (by the way, the same symbol is widely spread out inside the whole castle, too).
And how did it appear, actually? The appearance of the amulet is connected with the legend of Fatima (the daughter of Prophet Muhammad). She was married to Ali who loved and appreciated her very much. One evening she was preparing the dinner when Ali came back home bringing another woman whom he wanted to make his wife as well. Heartbroken and upset by his husband’s decision she dropped the wooden spoon in the dish and she continued cooking with her bared hand only and tears in her eyes. Her heartache was so huge that she didn’t feel any physical pain caused by her burnt hand. Ali didn’t marry the second girl and Fatima’s hand turned into a symbol of faith, dignity and the power of character.